Dark Play “is not an easy play,” director Amy Lane warns. “I have no delusions that it’s a play everyone will like.” But she brought the script by Carlos Murillo to the attention of her drama colleagues at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, along with several other scripts featuring younger characters. It’s “very twisted, dark, but everybody has some connection to it.” She considers it “a worthy topic, thought-provoking” as well as a “challenge emotionally and good training” for the student cast. Dark Play or Stories For Boys (the full title) travels “through the murky recesses of cyberspace and into the most terrifying regions of the human psyche.” It opened with a preview performance Wednesday and continues through March 5 in the Weber Fine Arts Building. Bill Grennan, in his master’s thesis role, plays college student Nick, “a disturbed young man” of 21, whose girlfriend asks about the scars on his torso. He tells her about a time when he was 14 and discovered an online profile of a young man who wrote, “I want to fall in love.” So he created a dream girl, or so he says. Nick warns us, “I make shit up.” Grennan believes they “wouldn’t do this at Creighton,” where he earned his undergraduate degree. But he and his director share the hope that audiences will empathize with his situation. “He tells you he’s a liar,” Lane says, “but I feel for him because he’s in trouble.” She talked to Murillo and learned that the playwright has seen Nick portrayed as a psychopath or as “a kid caught up in something.” Grennan explains, “He thinks he’s above humanity, and that’s what gets him in trouble.” His “dark play” game on the internet “spirals out of control.” The character’s drama teacher provides a rationale for the play’s value when she argues that the best theater “challenges the audience to confront the darkness in their own souls.” Sarah Liken plays Nick’s college girlfriend, Steven Hartman is Adam, the love-seeker, and Olivia Sather is “Rachel,” the embodiment of the dream girl Nick concocts online. Some others are simply identified as “netizens,” which in this case are fellow travelers in cyberspace. Obviously, it deals with an internet world quite familiar to students at UNO and the rest of online world. Given the student focus, it calls for a homework assignment. Consider the article by Adam Gopnik in the Feb. 21 New Yorker , titled “How the Internet Gets Inside Us.” Among other points in a lengthy piece, he argues: “A social network is crucially different from a social circle, since the function of a social circle is to curb our appetites and of a network to extend them.” Away from the internet, you’re “less oppressed by the force of your own inner life. Shut off your computer, and your self stops raging quite as much or quite as loud.” If you saw the photo spread in Saturday’s World-Herald , you know that lighting designer Steven L. Williams collaborated with scenic designer Robbie Jones and director Lane to make this production a highly original exercise in light and darkness as the netizens enter into virtual reality. They’ll sometimes be seen only in the pale glow of their laptop screens. If it all comes together as expected, the combination of technical stagecraft and creativity will add to UNO’s reputation for innovative productions, often unmatched in the metro theater community and unrecognized by voters in local award competitions. As for the content, playgoers may respond in ways as different as these two reviewers: One called it “A kick in the throat that you’re thankful for” while another said “It’s only lesson is to stay away from plays by Carlos Murillo.” The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Dark Play or Stories for Boys runs through March 5 at the Weber Fine Arts Building, 6001 Dodge St., with performances at 7:30 p.m. Wed.-Sat. and a talkback after the March 4 production. Tickets are $15, $10 for seniors, $5 for students and free to UNO students. Visit {encode=”unomaha.edu/unotheatre” title=”unomaha.edu/unotheatre”} or call 554.PLAY.

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